Συνήθεις ερωτήσεις γύρω από τα 4 εμβόλια και μάλλον αφελείς απαντήσεις που επιδιώκουν να καθησυχάσουν τους ερωτώντες

It’s my understanding that the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine is higher than the risk of hospitalisation from Covid, so why should I put my child through a painful procedure with awful side effects? Kim Briscoe

Philippa Roxby Health reporter

Myocarditis is a very rare side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Symptoms – which can include chest pain or palpitations – go away quickly. For every million first doses, there have been between three and 17 cases, with more occurring in boys than girls. Very few have ended up in hospital.

But these heart symptoms can also be caused by Covid-19 itself, and a tiny number of children do end up seriously ill from the virus, including long-lasting symptoms.

According to figures from the JCVI – the government’s vaccination advisers – vaccinating one million children would prevent 87 hospital admissions and two intensive care admissions.

Getting the vaccine itself is virtually painless and most children will only have a slightly sore arm afterwards.

How will my son having the vaccine prevent disruption to education? Elizabeth Allcock

Nick Triggle Health correspondent

There’s a reason this decision-making process has been so painful – it is such a finely balanced call.

Healthy children aged 12 to 15 are at such low risk from Covid, that the benefit of vaccination on health grounds alone is only marginal.

Even in terms of limiting school disruption, the modelling suggests the benefits may only be small.

The emergence of the Delta variant means the vaccines are less effective at preventing infection than they once were.

 

As a mother of teenage girls, I am worried about the potential long-term impact on their fertility. Anecdotally I have a number of female friends and relatives whose periods have been affected by their Covid jabs, so what impact is it having on our reproductive system? Emma, Coventry

  • Why is the AstraZeneca vaccine not being used as a booster? Stephen Cannie, Peterborough

Fergus Walsh Medical editor

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been deemed safe and effective to use as a booster, but is only being recommended for people who are allergic to the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).

I understand that concern about a rare blood clotting side effect is the reason why the AZ vaccine is not being used as a booster. For this reason it is already limited in the UK to those over 40.

All the vaccines used in the UK provide significant defences against severe Covid. But it remains unclear which will offer the most lasting protection. Pfizer and Moderna score best in the initial weeks after immunisation, but their immunity wanes more quickly than the AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses a disabled virus.

So it would be wrong to completely write off the Oxford-AZ jab as a booster. If the vaccine is shown to give more durable immunity, it may yet have a continuing role here.

I am a 72-year-old man and I was wondering if it’s possible to get the booster and flu jabs at the same time? Dennis, Fife

Yes. When it announced its programme of booster jabs, the Scottish government said it would follow the advice of the JCVI and “wherever possible, eligible people will be offered Covid-19 and flu vaccines together”.

As an over-50, you are in one of the groups who will be offered a Covid booster. Other groups include frontline health and social care workers, people aged 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions, and older adults in residential care homes. This last group will start receiving both jabs in Scotland in the next week.

Making a similar announcement for England, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said that people who are eligible for the Covid booster would also be offered the flu vaccine at the same time, although this may not always be practically possible.

Northern Ireland and Wales also intend to make both jabs available together, although in Wales, health minister Eluned Morgan cautioned that it would be “only where timing and logistics allow”.

We’re told the number of new infections every day, but we’re never told how many of them are people who have already been fully vaccinated. Why not? Sherwin Smith, Wallingford

Robert Cuffe Head of statistics

Public Health England (PHE) has now started to release this data.

Earlier this month it published estimates of the rates of case numbers in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

It’s tempting to compare these case numbers directly, but it also can be very misleading.

Vaccinated people are more likely to be old, white, well-off or clinically vulnerable than the population at large. So you might end up learning a bit about the effect of being old or well-off rather than the effect of being vaccinated.

That’s why scientists tend to rely on carefully conducted studies that compare case rates in vaccinated people with the case rates in otherwise similar unvaccinated people.

Is it worth taking a low dose of aspirin to thin the blood at the time of vaccination to reduce the risk of blood clots? From Ranmali Fernando, Enfield

For anyone not already prescribed aspirin by a doctor, Professor Beverly Hunt, medical director of Thrombosis UK, strongly advises against this.

“We know if you take aspirin and you don’t need to take aspirin, the benefits aren’t very good,” she told the BBC.

However, anyone who has already been prescribed aspirin by a doctor should continue to take it before their jab, says blood specialist Prof Adrian Newland.

Anyone on anti-coagulant medicines (such as Warfarin) – or people who have clotting disorders – should speak to their doctors before having the jab, he says. They should also let vaccinators know about any blood thinning medications.

What are the signs you may be developing a blood clot? From Lindsey Handley, Caterham, Surrey

Doctors are focusing on several types of blood clots regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

One that has attracted particular attention is a clot on the brain called Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CSVT).

It forms in large veins in the head – stopping blood from draining out of the brain. As a result, blood cells may break and leak into brain tissue – ultimately leading to a stroke.

CVSTs are more common, but still very rare, in younger women.

If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, you should call 999.

The UK’s medicines regulator – the MHRA – says anyone who has the following symptoms four or more days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek prompt medical advice: severe or persistent headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, swollen legs, persistent abdominal pain, unusual skin bruising, pinpoint spots (not including the injection site).

How long after a vaccine can the rare blood clot develop? If it is three weeks since my jab, am I definitely in the clear? From Rushda Khan, Cambridge

Most cases have been seen between four days and a few weeks after people have had their jab.

Medical experts in the UK suggest doctors should consider this rare condition as a possible diagnosis for anyone who has matching symptoms up to a month after they have had the vaccine.

If you had your vaccine three weeks ago, you should seek medical advice if you experience any of the symptoms listed above in the next week or so.

As a mother of teenage girls, I am worried about the potential long-term impact on their fertility. Anecdotally I have a number of female friends and relatives whose periods have been affected by their Covid jabs, so what impact is it having on our reproductive system? Emma, Coventry

Philippa Roxby Health reporter

Some women have reported changes to their periods, such as unusually heavy bleeding, or that they’ve stopped for a while – and experts say there’s a logical explanation for that.

After vaccination, immune cells are affected, the body’s defence system fires up and there’s an inflammatory response – which could all cause menstrual changes. The flu and HPV vaccines can also have the same effect.

But doctors say there are no long-term side effects and women shouldn’t be worried.

There has been lots of misinformation on social media around the vaccines and fertility – but don’t believe anything that has not been written by a gynaecological specialist. Experts all say there is no way the vaccines could have an impact on fertility. In fact, getting Covid itself is more likely to cause a variety of health issues which could affect fertility.

The vaccines have also been recommended for use in pregnancy.

Is the risk of clotting higher in young women currently taking the birth control pill? From Karen, Gateshead

Pregnancy, the combined pill and some fertility treatments have been known to put people at higher risk of clots in general. Some of these clots can be treated more easily than CVSTs.

The European Medicines Agency estimates that for every 10,000 women using combined hormonal contraception for a year, between five and 12 will develop clots in veins (such as deep vein thrombosis or clots to the lungs).

This compares to around two per 10,000 among people not using these types of contraception.

Experts recommend that otherwise well people should not stop taking the pill when having a vaccine.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is seeking further guidance from regulators about pregnant women and those starting fertility treatment. In the meantime, pregnant women are advised to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their doctors.

I’m 22 years old and have had both my AstraZeneca vaccinations. What does this mean for me? From Kieran, Scotland

Since you have already had both your vaccines, you will not be affected by the decision to offer under-30s an alternative vaccine in the future.

If you have already received both doses, you might be in one of the priority groups for whom getting or spreading Covid could be especially dangerous.

People in the highest priority groups might be offered an extra booster Covid vaccine later in the year – similar to the annual flu jab which medically vulnerable patients are advised to have.

It is possible under-30s might not be offered an Astra-Zeneca booster if one is available, but we don’t know enough at this stage to be certain.

If I’ve had two vaccinations will I still need to take advantage of the free lateral flow tests being made available? From Elizabeth Woodward, Poole, Dorset

Yes. All the available data suggests the main vaccines currently in use are very effective at protecting people from becoming seriously ill – and in the majority of cases stopping people from developing symptoms at all.

However, no vaccine works for everybody who takes it, and so people should not think that just because they have had two doses of vaccine they are 100% safe – either from developing symptoms, or spreading the virus to other people they come into contact with.

Everyone in England can now get two lateral flow rests per week from testing sites, pharmacies, or through the post.

The government hopes that widening access to testing for people who don’t have symptoms will help stop outbreaks as lockdown is lifted.

How safe is the vaccine for young adults with Down’s syndrome? Jane Chatfield

The vaccines available for Covid are considered extremely safe and there are no reports of serious side-effects.

People over the age of 18 with Down’s syndrome were among the first to be vaccinated as they are on the list of those considered to be extremely clinically vulnerable.

The list was amended in November, after studies suggested people with Down’s syndrome were at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they caught Covid.

The vast majority of children and teenagers with Down’s syndrome are considered to be at less risk than adults, although teenagers aged 16-18 have now been offered the vaccine.

Can I have the vaccine safely if I am allergic to penicillin? From James, Bristol

 

Michelle Roberts Health online editor

Yes. Allergy to penicillin is not listed as a clinical reason to avoid having either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.

However, when you are invited for your Covid vaccine, you should discuss your allergies with healthcare staff to make sure there is no other reason to avoid it.

How do staff know that the vaccine they are giving you has not expired because of incorrect storage? From Keith, Loughborough

Philippa Roxby Health reporter

Every vial, which contains several vaccine doses, is stored frozen and has to be thawed and then diluted before people are vaccinated.

Healthcare staff will be given detailed information on exactly how long the vials can be stored in a fridge (five days) and when they should be discarded after being taken out.

Prof Jonathan Van Tam says these considerations make this “delicate” vaccine more complicated to get to people in care homes and to the elderly in their own homes.

But this won’t be as much of an issue in hospitals where vaccine doses can be stored in bulk and used quickly on staff and patients.

Will the vaccine last for the rest of your life, or will you have to have a vaccine every 12 months, like the flu jab? From Robert Parker, Warwickshire

Michelle Roberts Health online editor

It’s not clear yet how long immunity might last after vaccination.

It is possible that people will need to be vaccinated annually or every few years to have protection.

Is the vaccine compulsory? From Kim, North Yorkshire

Philippa Roxby Health correspondent

No, people in the UK are not being told they must have the vaccine.

However, those in the most at-risk groups (over-70s and care home residents), and people who work in care homes and for the NHS will be expected to have it – to protect themselves and the people they care for.

Making a vaccine mandatory is not usually recommended because it can lower confidence in the jab.

How many covid patients have long covid and what is the maximum time of the illness? From Bryan Thornton

 

Michelle Roberts Health online editor

It’s estimated about one in 10 people who fall ill with covid remain unwell two months after being infected. Long covid can last from weeks to many months.

Some people who were infected towards the beginning of the pandemic still have long covid now. Others have since recovered.

The symptoms of long covid are varied and can fluctuate. Doctors are learning more about the condition, including the symptoms that people may experience and how long these can last for.

Should I be washing my hair as well as my hands when I come home from outside (heavy breathing joggers passing me, supermarkets etc)? Asme Sheikh, London

On balance, this is almost certainly unnecessary.

While hand washing is very important for personal hygiene, none of the advice from the world’s leading health bodies – the World Health Organization for example, the CDC in the US or the NHS in the UK – places any importance on hair washing one way or another.

It’s theoretically possible that you could catch the virus if someone sneezed on your hair and those droplets found their way to your eyes, nose or mouth (for instance if your hair fell over your face).

However, research suggests that while virus droplets can survive for a couple of hours on some non-porous surfaces such as steel, there are few – if any – cases of Covid which can be traced back to being transmitted in this way.

I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? from Maeve McGoldrick

James Gallagher Health correspondent

Mothers pass on protection from infection to their babies through their breast milk.

If your body is producing antibodies to fight the infection, these would be passed on through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding mums should follow the same advice as anyone else over reducing risk – cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, throw away used tissues straight away and wash hands frequently, while trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Can Covid-19 be transmitted through someone’s exhaled cigarette smoke/vaping? From Michael, Chichester, West Sussex

Yes. It is possible to become infected by breathing in somebody else’s second-hand smoke or exhaled vapour – both of which can transport coronavirus particles on microscopic droplets of water vapour exhaled from the lungs.

In fact, the risk could even be heightened – with some scientists believing the virus might travel considerably further this way than when exhaled in normal breath.

However, a study found that the increased risk of virus transmission for the majority of vapers was much less than the increased risk from talking or coughing.

Government guidance for smokers says it’s difficult to gauge the risk to individuals – and, in the absence of specific evidence, recommends that vapers err on the side of caution and avoid breathing out clouds of vapour in the presence of others.

When venues reopen in England, they will be prohibited from providing smoking equipment – such as shisha pipes – for use on the premises.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-

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